BY DAVID ONJILI There are certain aspects off the football pitch that we remain completely ignorant of despite soccer being one of the most popular sports on earth. From the underhand dealings during transfer of players to finances, revenue and sponsorships. This article, after a thorough Internet research and investigations from acclaimed journalists, tries to lift the lid on some of these facts. While FIFA tries to be transparent, there are many secrets that most soccer lovers fail to seek the truth about and base their knowledge on hearsay. The shirt sales myth. Can a players’ transfer fee be recouped through shirt sales? All or atleast most football clubs have a shirt sponsorship deal, giant kit suppliers are proud to be associated with successful clubs that have massive global following. Industry standards from giant kit suppliers like NIKE,Puma or adidas demand that they get between 85% to 90% of all shirt sales revenue then the club enjoys the remainder, and while the figures involved are usually very high and at times never achieved, the kit giants agree with their sponsored clubs that they will start earning royalties once a certain number of shirts are finally sold. The number of shirts is usually a very big number. Manchester United has the 3rd largest shirt sales deal in the world behind Barcelona and Real Madrid and the largest in The English Premier league. Their 10-year deal with adidas is worth £350 million that translates to £75 million annually. The primary reason Germany’s sports kits giants adidas have a tiny logo on the shirts of Manchester United jersey is for: Capture share market in emerging markets like Asia and Africa Solidify its presence in existing markets like Europe and America, and most important: Kit deals are primarily licencing deals and this is where the real value is to them. With the above in mind, is it true that Manchester United have been able to recoup the amount they will be paying Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wages through the sale of his shirts? A big NO. The figure of close to £50 million worth of Zlatan shirt sales are untrue according to sports law experts, Jake Cohen. Remember, Manchester United as a club has an annual deal worth £75 million with adidas. To say that one player’s shirt sales have reached almost three quarters of that amount is a fallacy. The amount of £75 million pounds is so huge that the shirt sales never reach there. adidas simply sets a number of shirt sales that once reached, Manchester United starts enjoying royalties. But, key point also here lies with Zlatan Ibrahimovic himself. Zlatan is a NIKE and not an adidas athlete. He must never be seen to advertise directly for adidas, although his contract with Manchester United binds him to advertising for the club as long as he appears in the advert with other adidas athletes like Wayne Rooney so that the advert doesn’t appear as a direct endorsement of adidas by Zlatan. Fax machines and player transfers – Fact from fiction Since the year 2010, it has been mandatory for clubs to complete international transfers online using the FIFA TMS (Transfer Matching System). It is a system alongside online forms that clubs use to conduct their transfers. During a player’s transfer, once both the buying and selling clubs agree on a deal, the player signs a contract as he awaits the ITC (International Transfer Certificate). To get the ITC, relevant documentation is ‘sent’ to FIFA for fact checking, they then ‘send’ it to the national football association of the buying club after which FIFA then requests the registration of the player from the association of the selling club and once done,FIFA is notified and they issue the ITC. For FIFA here… ‘send’ meant use of courier and faxes which was a painstaking and long process and that is why they introduced the FIFA TMS. This was approved by a vote of 199 to 3 at the FIFA Congress. The computerised system would only take approximately 10 minutes to be done with, as all that was needed was just to match the provided data. The key here is that the data provided (by selling and buying clubs) has to match. What data, you may ask? Player image rights, salary, agent fees. This is done by FIFA to help curb corruption. The David De Gea saga David De Gea’s move to Real Madrid had been agreed at £29million. As part of it, Keylor Navas was to move to Manchester United. This was despite the fact that United wanted €40million earlier. Real finalised all their paperwork on deadline day and sent them to Manchester United. United who were still huggling over contractual issues with Navas took 8 hours to respond. This was because Manchester were still ironing contractual issues with Keylor Navas who was not happy about certain clauses in his contract. In the meantime, De Gea was already in Madrid at his girlfriend’s place just waiting to be presented as a Madrid player. Florentino Perez, Real Madrid president was at The Santiago Bernabeu Stadium waiting to unveil their new acquisition as Keylor Navas was awaiting a medical. At exactly midnight on transfer deadline day, Manchester United using the FIFA TMS finalised the De Gea move to Real Madrid, but what baffles is that Madrid on its part, logged onto the system 2 minutes past the deadline time instead of doing it simultaneously with Manchester United. Their appeal to the Spanish football association failed as the time had elapsed. The accusations started with the most common and highly publicized reason being the failures in fax machines yet as stated clearly it was a delay on the part of Real Madrid that halted the move. Questions to date still linger on why Real Madrid delayed. One day the truth shall be out but for certain it wasn’t a fax machine but rather failure in personnel. While I may not be directly privy to the happenings, a keen understanding of the FIFA TMS points to a simple theory of what transpired. Keep in mind that FIFA no longer conduct transfers in the old manner so courier and faxes are not in the picture here. For a transfer to be complete, the data enterred by both clubs in the system must match. If they don’t, then no transfer takes place and here the problem squarely lies with either the buying club (Real Madrid) or the selling club (Manchester United) and not as we were made to believe that it was a fax machine. A simplistic but practical look at the De Gea saga would be… When you want to log into your email, the computer will ask you for your password. This password must match the one you gave earlier while opening the email. If they don’t, you cannot fault the computer or any other person but yourself for forgetting the password. NB A detailed understanding of the FIFA TMS can be obtained online from an interview between journalist Gabriele Marcotti and FIFA general manager of TMS Mr. Mark Goddard. Next article, I will give you an insider look at how a player’s transfer takes place from the eyes of a coach and that of an agent responsible for a player transfer.